Virginia State Seal Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Radford Ware

Radford Ware
Radford Ware
Radford Ware
Radford Ware
Radford Ware
Radford Ware
Radford Ware
Radford Ware
Period: Late Woodland
Defining Attributes: Radford Ware is a Late Woodland limestonetempered pottery with net, cord, corn cob, and plain surface treatments. Round globular jars are decorated along the rim with finger pinching and gashes. Occasionally strap handles occur.
Chronology: Numerous radiometric dates from sites for this ware range mainly from 1120 to 1580 CE. The sites include Brown Johnson (44BD0001), Newberry Tate (44BD0002), Trigg (44MY0003), Stroubles Creek (44MY0007), Hoge (44TZ0006), Daugherty’s Cave (44RU0014), and Fox (44SM0004). According to Holland’s seriation study, this ware predates New River Ware, but continues along with New River Ware and Wythe Ware into the European Contact period, like at the Trigg Site (44MY0003).
Distribution: Radford Ware like New River Ware is found over a broad area of southwest Virginia from the upper Dan River and Roanoke River in the east, to along the entire New River in the middle, to the upper stretches of the Clinch and Holston rivers to the west.
Paste/Temper: Radford Ware is tempered with crushed limestone to dolomite, angular particles ranging from less than 1 to 6 mm. The total temper mixture is about 25 percent of the paste. Some sherds are leached, but the angular holes are easily distinguished from the flat, platy holes left when shell temper leaches.
Surface Treatment: Evans originally included five types within the ware: Net Impressed, Cord Marked, Fabric Impressed, Plain, and a related type-Page Cord Marked. It is now known that the fabric impressed ceramics are the Middle Woodland Long Branch Fabric Marked, and that Page Cord Marked is a totally different ware located to the north in the Shenandoah Valley, and undoubtedly representing a different group of people. Recently, corn cob impressed pottery has been noted especially on small jars or on the recurved neck of larger jars and storage vessels. A few simple stamped or curvilinear complicate stamped sherds occur at 44MY0003, and probably date to the European Contact period.
Decoration: Decoration includes finger pinching along the lip, or lower edge of folded rim or on the collar. The pinching served the practical purpose of tacking down the folded rim. Similar techniques are used on Wythe, Dan River, and Clarksville wares. Similarly, small gashes or nicks occur in the neck-rim area and can tack down the folded rim. Occasional rounded loop handles or flat strap-like handles occur. Rarely paired or single nodes are located just below the lip.
Vessel Form: Radford vessels are coil-constructed with paddle malleation. Round jars with globular body; an orifice smaller than body diameter, and either a recurved, slightly inslanted, or vertical rim.
Vessel Diameter: Range from 24 to 36 cm with the majority 26 to 28 cm.
Vessel Height: Unknown
Rim Form: Rounded on unthickened rims, either incurving or slightly recurved. Folded-over or thickened rims occur and may be rounded or flattened.
Base Form: Rounded and usually thickened, particularly on the large storage vessels. Round- flattened bottoms occur on smaller vessels.
Vessel Wall Thickness: Range of 5 to 10 mm; majority 6 to 8 mm
Discussion: Evans defined Radford Ware and placed Page Cord Marked Ware of the northern Shenandoah Valley within the ware, noting only differences in rim decoration and appliques. Egloff emphasized that Radford Ware includes net, plain, and corn cob surfaces-treatments not found in Page Cord Marked. Therefore the wares are basically different and represent different cultures. Holland defined a Radford Fabric Marked Type which is now recognized as the Middle Woodland Long Branch Fabric Impressed Ware. Most researchers agree that limestone tempered pottery, probably derived from the Middle Woodland Candy Creek Ware, predate shelltempered ceramics in southwest Virginia. However, Radford and New River wares coexist in southwest Virginia and both last right up into the European Contact period. Benthall was the first to note the amazing similarity and mixing at numerous sites between Radford, New River, and Clarksville (Dan River) wares. Egloff interpreted this similarity in vessel shapes, surface treatments, and decoration, but tempered with different material, as representing the regionalization of a socially connected group that shared a common culture and language. Recently, Fuerst (2008) has defined a contemporaneous ware, Crab Orchard, which is tempered with gastropod shell or a combination of gastropod and limestone. In general, during the latter stages of the Late Woodland Period the same cultural group was tempering its vessels with either crushed limestone and/or gastropod shell, and that the preference for gastropod shell increased through time.
Defined in the Literature: Evans first defined the ware in 1955. Holland broadened the description in 1970. In 1987 Egloff removed Fabric Marked and Page Cord Marked from Radford Ware, added Corn Cob Impressed to the ware, and noted in some examples the addition of crushed gastropods to the limestone temper. Fuerst (2008) further studied the crushed gastropod tempered sherds, calling them Crab Orchard Ware, drawing attention to this unique shell temper, alone or in combination with limestone.
References: Egloff 1987; Evans 1955:64-67; Fuerst 2008; Holland 1970;;
Prepared By: Egloff 2008

Updated: February 6, 2020